Washington’s up-and-coming rapper and songwriter, 301 Pacs, released his two-track EP, Cyclical Nature, which deals with the daily struggles faced by young Americans due to the demands of the career grind. The record, featuring “Woke Up” and “Breathe Out,” tells a story drawn from his own personal experiences.
During our interview, the rapper reveals how his poetry skills have helped him approach songwriting with a more eloquent and poetic touch. He also talks about prioritizing mental health while pursuing a music career, and advises other struggling artists not to force their work.
301 Pacs admits he has a new project in the works, a possible full-length album that showcases his versatility. Continue to read the full interview below.
Cyclical Nature is very relatable, capturing the daily struggles that many young Americans experience due to the demands of the career grind. How important do you think it is for artists to bring attention to social issues and raise awareness through their music?
Honestly, I feel like every artist should be authentic to themselves. Otherwise every thought they write may not convey the way they think it should or have the impact they predict it to have. Every artist can’t make an impactful social justice track; just like every artist can’t make a club banger. It’s beyond cliché advice, but showing us who you are through your writing is key. The audience can feel forced writing.
The new release takes a different direction from your previous single, “Life Jacket,” in terms of its subject matter. How do you decide on the topics to write about in your music? Do you plan ahead, or do you wait for inspiration to strike?
As much as I do plan my songs ahead, those tracks might never see the light of day. I want every release I have to tell a story or narrative that I feel inspired to highlight at that moment.
You mentioned that “Breathe Out” was inspired by a trip to Orlando where you stepped outside of your comfort zone. Can you tell us more about that experience and how it influenced the songwriting process?
Well, I met this woman in Orlando. Super cool and chill. I had never stepped inside a club in my 25 years of life. Funny enough, she took me to three in one night. I don’t dance at all, but her energy and vibe were so infectious and non-stop all night. Being inspired by the jersey club renaissance and ‘Just Wanna Rock’, I just decided to recall my time from that night.
The two tracks on Cyclical Nature, “Woke Up” and “Breathe Out,” were written separately, but fit together perfectly. Do you see this EP as a concept record, and if so, how did you approach crafting the narrative arc?
Yes, I do see this EP as a concept record, however short it may be. I had originally written ‘Woke Up’ a year or two ago, so that was just sitting in my files for the longest period before I decided to connect it with ‘Breathe Out’ to convey how I felt about my work-life balance.
How does your experience as a poet influence the way you write and perform your music? For example, do you approach songwriting differently than poetry, or do you see them as two sides of the same creative coin?
As far as any poetry in my work, I try to discuss common topics in a more eloquent way, I suppose. For example: instead of saying “I woke up and went to work”, I say “woke up, still stuck on dead presidents”. It’s a simpler type of poetry, but poetry nonetheless. I want to add things such as imagery and other poetic devices throughout my work; such as “hands are busy on this workbench/feet plastered in the concrete/I need to know if you’re sticking with me/Life’s more than just kicking with me”.
The music industry can be notoriously challenging, and in your music, you’ve been open about struggles with mental health. How do you prioritize your own well-being and take care of your mental health while pursuing your music career? What advice do you have for other artists who may be struggling with similar challenges?
My best advice would be: don’t force it. Some days I start writing as soon as I wake up. Some days, I just hate the thought of making music. I get discouraged and encouraged so easily. It’s really a rollercoaster. If I ever feel music becomes more of a chore than a passion, then I’ll stop. I may realistically release less music than Frank Ocean. That’s because, like him, I take every line seriously. Every line needs to have a purpose in the song.
What’s next for you after the release of Cyclical Nature? Are you working on any new projects, and can we expect a full-length album in the near future?
I do have a project coming soon. It may be a full-length album just to showcase versatility if anything, but it’ll definitely have more earworms than this EP. That’s for sure.
Listen to the full EP here: